April 22, 2015

Investing in Green Buildings Today to Shape a Healthy and Prosperous Tomorrow

Photo: Earth Day 2015 graphic.

Earth Day always represents a special time for Americans to come together and to celebrate the beauty of our rivers, parks and other natural resources that enrich our lives and enhance our communities.  And it’s also a moment for all of us to recommit ourselves to fulfilling a sacred responsibility: preserving our planet for future generations.

HUD is committed to doing our part by helping build strong and sustainable communities that provide opportunity for all.  This means working with local leaders to address climate change, to build a more resilient future, and to bolster the clean energy economy to generate cost savings and job opportunities for American families.

We’re doing this in a number of ways.  For example, we’re enhancing the energy efficiency of multifamily buildings. About a quarter of U.S. households live in multifamily housing units, and nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S come from energy use in these buildings. Improving their energy efficiency by 20 percent would save nearly $7 billion in energy costs each year and cut 350 million tons of carbon pollution in a decade.

That’s why HUD joined the Better Buildings Challenge, which is a voluntary leadership initiative that asks building owners, developers, and managers to reduce the energy used across their building portfolios by 20 percent or more by 2020.  In a short period, we’ve already achieved remarkable results. Since 2013, 87 Multifamily Partners have joined the Challenge, representing nearly 400 million square feet of affordable housing and over 390,000 households.

To complement this work, HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development is helping grantees incorporate renewable energy into their affordable housing development and community development programs. This work is already making a difference on the ground.

For instance, the City of Los Angeles utilized HOME funds to build the LEED Platinum New Genesis Apartments, a six-story new construction project which will provide 106 affordable apartment units in Downtown.  Most of these units have Section 8 Project-Based Voucher subsidies, and are reserved for chronically homeless, homeless, and low-income individuals with special needs, giving them all a chance to enhance both their health outcomes and expand their opportunities.

HUD has also been supportive of innovative approaches that begin with our state and local partners. Just two weeks ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and I announced the launch of the largest energy savings program for any public housing authority in the nation. This effort will be done through an Energy Performance Contract, which is estimated to generate at least $100 million in energy efficiency upgrades across nearly 300 New York City Housing Authority developments. These efforts will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate tens of millions of dollars in cost savings, as well as create good paying jobs.

I am also proud of our efforts to help facilitate and expand the financing for energy efficiency and solar energy in multifamily housing. Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown, the MacArthur Foundation and I announced the launch of a Property-Assessed Clean Energy Financing pilot program for multifamily housing in California. It allows multifamily building owners and developers to gain access to capital to accelerate renewable energy and efficiency retrofits for energy and water.  This will make existing multifamily housing more affordable to renters with low incomes and save money for consumers and taxpayers.

With all of this work, HUD is firmly focused on achieving results that will benefit people, the planet and save taxpayer money.  We’re proud to work with a wide variety of partners to be good stewards, to meet the challenges of our time, and to help protect the environment.  And we look forward to building on this progress by creating a healthy and sustainable future where opportunity is within reach of all Americans.

Happy Earth Day.


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